A Sneak Peek at The Boring Company's Las Vegas Tesla Tunnelorama

A totally positive look at this revolution in public transit.

tesla in a tube

Robyn Beck-Pool / Getty Images

When we last looked at The Boring Company's plans for drilling a tunnel under the Las Vegas Convention Center, filling it with Tesla cars, and calling it transit, 57 commenters complained variously; "Wait until the thing opens, then report on it. Right now you just sound like another ignorant Elon hater," or "What a dumb article."

The Convention Center Loop is not quite open yet (appropriately, the official opening will be at the World of Concrete convention in June). But they did have a sneak preview for selected media (Elon Musk, The Boring Company's founder, doesn't like the media and picked them carefully) and I promise to be totally positive and upbeat about this brilliant entrepreneur and his totally tubular transit system.

Map of route

Map of route

The tunnels currently run from one end of the convention center to the other. It's about a 20-minute walk, which can now be done in comfort and style in a couple of minutes in the backseat of a Tesla Model 3 car, currently operated by a driver.

In other words, right now it is a taxi in a tunnel. Mick Ackers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal tweets that "at full capacity the Boring Company’s Convention Center Loop can transport 4,400 people per hour in its 62 vehicles fleet."

A transit tweeter in Toronto notes that this is not very many people, but then it is a tiny tunnel – which is why he was able to build the thing so cheaply, only $52 million, thanks to the small diameter and the special machine that manufactures the bricks that line the tunnel as it drills. Although it doesn't look like it in the videos, there is enough room to get out of the car if it gets stuck in the tunnel (we hope not through the sunroof).

For some reason, this video is not sharable on Vimeo so I embedded a tweet of it, showing the control room and the LED light show that you see as you slowly drive through the tunnel. I am determined to be a techno-optimist here, but will quote Matt Novak, who knows more about what is closer than we think than most journalists, and who writes in Gizmodo:

"At the end of the day, what did reporters get to see on Thursday? Colorful lights. Lots of colorful lights, it would seem. And not much else. We’re not saying that Las Vegas wasted $50 million on a stupid tunnel, but we’re not  not saying that either."

Others are more positive, and it is indeed a whole new world of LED lighting, described by architect Greg La Vadera as "a disco for cars." At some point, there will also be custom self-driving 16-person vehicles going through a much larger network connecting the airport to the stadium.

Contessa Brewer of CNBC is REALLY excited, and describes the experience, saying "it's not a subway, it's a highway under ground, and because this is Las Vegas, this is also a thrill ride!"

After writing my last post, Ian Watson was critical of my negativity and explained why he thought it was a serious solution and makes some good points:

"It appears to be basically a subway system with a much smaller tunnel diameter (exponentially cheaper) and where the train cars are independent of each other. In a world of COVID, this makes a ton of sense. Plus, you could see how the separation of the train cars would potentially allow a subway system that could get you right to your destination rather than depending on large lines with lots of transfers. Actually, the whole thing looks extremely analogous to the 'sideways elevator pods' that you like to gush about, Lloyd. Where subways are the old, standard elevators with large cars traveling in one dimension, this system has small individual pods that can travel in two dimensions."

Perhaps he's right. Perhaps all those people who say that you should never underestimate Elon Musk have a point. It still looks like a taxi in a tube to me, but I could be missing something. And hey, as Gil Penalosa notes, there are benefits for urbanists: